Orlando Day 6 – Discovery Cove & Sea World – Swim With Dolphins, Not

December 22, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Posted in Travel, Travelogues | Leave a comment

My Mom discovered Discovery Cove.  Simply put, it is a Aquatic/Beach Oasis across the street from Sea World.  I believe is is aslo owned by Annheuser Busch.  The unique thing about this park is that they don’t admit more than 1,000 people per day.  As a result, the place never seems crowded but you typically have to book your tickets a couple months (maybe more for very busy season days) in advance.

They have two admissions. The basic and one that includes a 30 min. Dolphin Encounter.  I’ve seen these Dolphin Encounters before at the Hilton on the Big Island of Hawaii, and in the Bahamas.  Calling it a “Swim with Dolphins” is a bit misleading as you don’t really spend time swimming with them but typically just stand or float in the water, get to pet them, see them do some tricks, and then take a few second ride holding their fin.  We went with the basic admission as we believe these Dolphin encounters are at their root exploitive no matter how the company tries to candy coat it as being educational (you learn about the same you could learn with about 5 minutes of reading on the Internet.)

The bottom line is that a lot of people (especially in the U.S. and Western World that can afford it) for some reason have a facination with being able to touch a Dolphin.  Maybe it stems from the show Flipper and/or that these creatures are billed as being so highly intelligent.  Or maybe because Dolphins are a common theme for toys, decor, clothes for little girls.  I’m really not sure.  But what I am sure of is that probably 90+ percent of the people opting for the Dolphin encounter had done no research as to what is really going on with these Dolphins. Why would you want to risk ruining your experience due to guilt?  We live in a society of wants and gratification.  These Dolphin Encounters are a poster child for amusements that have been created to fill the demand for more and more entertainment.

I WOULD participate in a Dolphin Watch on a boat to observe them in their natural habitat. These Dolphin Encounters though If you don’t believe me, I suggest actually learning about Dolphins and these encounters here:

http://www.wspa-usa.org/wspaswork/marinemammals/dolphinscaptivitymain.aspx

We got a great deal on admission using a special American Express discount promotion that got the price just under $100 if I recall.  Since that day the high was only going to be barely over 70, we didn’t arrive until late morning.  The provide full shorty wet suits for the cold wimps and thin vests for the more warm blooded.

The place really is an oasis in Orlando.  The landscaping is incredible and most of the place is covered with white sand like the beaches in Hawaii.  We opted to rent a private cabana.  They have a Manta Ray lagoon where you can wade with the Mantas and pet them.  A larger lagoon with giant Mantas and tons of tropical fish.  And another swimming lagoon and then the Dolphin area.  However my sons liked the Lazy River the best, partially because it was so warm.  Since there is no sea life in it, it is heated to what I would estimate the high 80’s!  Practically feels like a spa!

The place was very peaceful and very uncrowded.  We estimated it was probably full to about 50-60% capacity that day.  Even 100% would have seemed uncrowded due to the 1,000 guest per day limit.

The Aviary was really cool.  When went in it several times and birds will come sit on your arm or shoulder so you can feed them.

Another great thing about Discovery Cove is that it is all you can eat snacks, lunch, and drinks including beer (courtesy of Budweiser of course.)  The lunch food was pretty good with lots of variety and you can eat lunch from 11-3 so you can go back for more whenever you want.

We really like Discovery Cove.  It was a nice, well needed break from the Amusement Parks.  Interestingly in the few minutes I walked over to watch the people at the Dolphin Experience I watched one of the workers get knocked down and injured by an aggressive Dolphin because she was carrying food around the edge of the lagoon.  Think these Dolphins are hungry?  Obviously since withholding food is the primary method to be used as a reward to condition them to do the tricks/behaviors for the encounter.

Another great thing about Discover Cove is that it includes a 14-day admission to neighboring Sea World.  We went there that night just to ride the two roller coasters.  We were not interested in any of their corny shows, again, with captive sea animals.  It did seem like a nice clean park though and I imagine there are so attractions other than the roller coasters worth seeing.  But time was limited.

The park was open until 10 and we got there about 8:30 and it was chilly (about 55) and we were one of the only ones going in, everyone was going out.  We got to ride the Manta and the Kracken as many times as we wanted with no wait.  We rode each three times and then left the park.  They are definitely (along with Dragon Challenge at Universal) the best, most intense roller coasters I’ve ridden in my life so far.  The kids loved them.

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